A day at the museum

Last week my mother and grandmother were in town, and we escaped the blistering heat by visiting the Carnegie Museum of Art. I hadn’t been there in well over 10 years, and very little has changed. What has changed, though, is my experience in art and awareness of social and historical context of its creation.

A bronze statue of the Hindu god Shiva, standing. Where his phallus should be is a gaping hole.

My first peeve arose when I made my way back to the Asian art gallery. Indian was next to Greek next to Egyptian next to Chinese next to more Indian – no subdivision whatsoever showing how distinct art from different cultures is. It was a paltry selection, too, one small hall against the fifteen to twenty halls showcasing European and American art. There’s just no excuse for, at a bare minimum, putting the three or four Chinese pieces next to each other – not to mention, last I checked, Egypt was part of Africa, not Asia. (They had an African art hall too, but it was even tinier than the Asian one.)

The Asian Art hall also featured a very nice statue of Shiva, the “Auspicious One” of Hindu mythology. Except that he was… missing something. As you can see in the above picture, there is a very obvious hole – not a break, not a blank spot, a hole – where his phallus should be. I wanted to weep and laugh at once. Western prudery strikes again, scattering desecration in its wake.


An antique sketchbook open to a page with a pen drawing by Francisco Goya, showing a hooded figure looming over a penitent girl.

In the hall of Works on Paper were a number of sketches by Francisco Goya, who I had known primarily for his painting. It seems he was also quite the commentator on social issues in his art, though, clothing in satire some quite serious critiques of entrenched power differentials in his society. Much of this bent in his work appears to have started after he became deaf in 1792. As I am also deaf, and turning my own work to critiques of society and progressive justice, It shouldn’t be a surprise to return readers why I am drawn to this. I will have to study his work more.

A painting of a lounging woman in an ornate gold frame.

My eye was caught by several other pieces by artists I was unfamiliar with. Albert Moore‘s Acacias was a study for his larger work Dreamers. I was caught by the vivid texture and light in the fabric, and the contrast between its energy and the serenity in her face. Just plain lovely.

I was then arrested by the Cubist gallery. Poor art historian that I am, I often forget that Picasso was not the only, or even the best, Cubist. Below are two of my favorites, Covert’s Untitled (Don Quixote) (left) and Macdonald-Wright’s Sunrise Synchromy in Violet (right). Photographs never do Cubist works justice. The depth and vibrancy of the colors, the dynamism of the shapes, makes these works jump out and grab you, pulling you into a kaleidoscope world.

A Cubist painting of a knight in gold on a vivid green background. A Cubist painting of a reclining figure in vivid blue, green, and red.

The back of a woman dressed as a bride, processing into a church formed of a gigantic industrial machine, poised to press her between rollers and spit her into a hellishly red abyss beyond.

Finally, we come to Carter’s War Bride, painted in 1940 by a Carnegie Tech professor whose female students were marrying young men who were immediately sent off to war. It is creepy and ominous. The bride in loving, hyper-realistic detail, the machine looming, ready to grind her to pieces, in the same smooth textures as war propaganda from that period. I am also reminded of our culture’s fascination with romanticizing war and misery, how someone can be looking tragedy in the face and see only the potential for glory.

Despite my issues with its presentation of non-Western art, the CMOA is a lovely museum, one I look forward to returning to frequently.

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Reboot complete. All processes running nominally.

As of this morning, the kid is back in school full-time, allowing me the space, time, and physical energy to have a care for things beyond keeping us fed, rested, and marginally cordial to one another. I’ve not done any art whatsoever in two months – not since we got the news that we had to whirlwind-quick pack up our life and transfer it from St. Louis to Pittsburgh – and my soul is feeling the ache.

So today I rounded up the source images I’ll be using for my next piece (the one I talk about here and here) and am shifting back into active-artist mode, with no small amount of gladness and relief. (Though I do have to say, just arranging the source images and knowing what I plan, this one will be…. intense. I will have to be very careful when and how I work on this.)

We also now have a wonderful new house, now named The Abbey – a 130-year-old 6-bedroom Victorian on Observatory Hill, half a block from 300 acres of park and 5 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh. We have great plans for the place, and a fair bit of my time will be spent not just unpacking but making this into the home we’ve dreamed of for years.

I have an appointment with a local pain management doctor next month. I hate this part – there’s so much background to cover, gaps to leap, before even determining if this is a decent doctor. The biggest worry is that the medication I depend on most to enable me to have a life outside of bed is hydrocodone, which thanks to addiction scaremongering most doctors are terrified to prescribe at all for chronic pain. You got something better? I’d love to try it. But I probably already have, and have found it useless to me.

The upside, I suppose, is that at this point I do know what I need. I just need to resist Good Patient Syndrome for long enough to find it again, even if it gets me labeled a bitch, an addict, or a hypochondriac.

I’ll leave you with a brief link roundup.

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Here we are.

So. Here we are. In Pittsburgh.

It’s very surreal to be here, really. It’s been nearly 10 years since I left. As I’ve been saying frequently, I couldn’t wait to escape then; but after a decade living in Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Saint Louis, I can say from experience rather than youthful provincialism that it really is a very nice city.

The city of Pittsburgh as seen from Mount Washington, an incline car in the foreground.

The city of Pittsburgh as seen from Mount Washington,
an incline car in the foreground.

Most places, you go back 10 years later and everything’s different. New developments, new stores, old beloved landmarks torn down. Pittsburgh, though, seems mostly unchanged. But not in the way of resisting change because it’s scary, but in the sense of “why fix what ain’t broke?” There are some changes, but mostly old run-down neighborhoods that seem a little brighter and cleaner. Even new stores that have moved in fit in rather than forcing their image on the place. The new Whole Foods in Friendship (a mile from where I lived when I was in college) feels like it’s always been there. The Science Center still has sinfully delicious onion rings, the best model trains ever, and their kids floor has been redone to be beyond amazing.

(My alma mater, Carnegie Mellon, does have this new sculpture thingy in front that’s mildly horrid. I can only hope it’s temporary.)

I imagine the suburbs have changed more, and if I go out to Greensburg to check out my childhood landmarks there may be more to come to grips with. But as it is, it’s comfortable. Startlingly so.

Anyway, for the moment we’re in this little 1-bedroom apartment in Brighton Heights, a forgotten little neighborhood on the non-scary part of the North Shore. It’s the first floor of a house with the very nice (Steelers fan!) landlady upstairs and good friends next door, including a 5-yr-old who’s getting along famously with Aiden. Over the weekend we saw a house not far from here that we are hoping will become our forever home – a six-bedroom Victorian at the entrance to a huge park. It’s a bit of a fixer-upper, but perfectly livable in the meantime, and the landlady is a sweetheart.

There’s a part of me that is mildly terrified about the house, because it is huge, three floors plus a basement. That’s a lot to take care of with my health issues. But the stairs are wide and stable; I could manage those even on a bad day, and I’ve had so few of those lately. It doesn’t have a huge amount of gardening space, but with 300 acres of park half a block away, who cares?! I feel at this juncture like I need to have faith in the future. I feel like I can have faith in the future, here. And that house has room for everything we need or want – studio, office, game room, temple space galore.

I’d forgotten how much life and personality houses have here. They breathe at night. The one we want to get feels lonely – it’s been sitting vacant for a year, waiting for the right people.

I do miss Saint Louis, especially our dear friends there. It was far harder to leave there than it’s been to leave anywhere else I’ve lived. But it seems it was the right thing. (I should mention that our new house will have plenty of room for out-of-town guests ;)

We’re in Pittsburgh.

It’s marvelous.

We’re home.

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Oh wow

So at Thursday’s PT I had a couple of trigger point injections – basically a shot with a very tiny needle and a very small bit of anesthetic directly into a painful knot in a muscle. The first, into my left pec minor, wasn’t too bad, though the twitch of the muscle when the needle hit the TP was disorienting. The second, in my left side about 4 inches below my armpit, was probably the worst pain I’ve had since childbirth. Good thing the walls in there are thick, that’s all I’m saying.

Anyway, today I’m having a pretty good day pain-wise, 3 on average, went for a walk, etc. And I thought to check the trigger points in my sides. On the right (where there was no injection) the usual. Even a light touch hurts, and a firm touch gets up to 7 or 8 without blinking. On the left – there was NO PAIN. None. Gone.

Holy cow.

And that’s why I keep going back twice a week to this treatment, even though both the injections and the myofascial massage are mind-meltingly painful – because it’s working. I am so much more functional than I was a month ago. Some of this is better pain meds, some is the onset of spring weather, but a large part, I believe, is this therapy.

And that’s another thing that is going to suck about moving to Pittsburgh. It took me over a year and a half to find this amazing rare therapy that is actually helping, and now I only get a month more of it before I have to find somebody else. There’s a lot of health care in Pittsburgh, including The Center for Pain Treatment, but I don’t know what’s good and what’s bad and what’s even anything remotely resembling the care I’m getting now. I will, of course, be asking my current doctor for any leads she might have, and I know she’ll do her best for me before I leave, but it’s still daunting.

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Here we go again.

We arrived in St Louis on my husband’s birthday, a year ago tomorrow.

A few months ago he was laid off from the job we moved here for.

Today he got the offer for a new job. A good one, with a company that appears to be a bit more stable than the last.

It’s in Pittsburgh.

This is good and bad. We love St. Louis, against all expectations. We’ve made some dear friends-cum-family here. Aiden’s in a fantastic school. I have vital and useful work in the local OTO. We’d really hoped to be done moving for a while – but there were just no jobs in Andrei’s field here.

Pittsburgh, on the other hand – we both grew up there. (Which is in itself makes moving back both good and bad!) We have dear friends there. My dad, who I haven’t seen in years, lives an hour or so from there, and it’s closer to the rest of my family on the East Coast. There are some folk trying to get OTO started again there, so that’s not going away. When I left 10 years ago, I couldn’t wait to get out of my hometown; but now I can say with experience rather than provincialism that it really is a pretty nice city.

Plus there are slightly fewer scary right-wing fundies there than here. I’d looked forward to becoming more involved in local politics here, but it’s honestly pretty scary around here. And churches. Churches everywhere, like they’re staring at you. Gack. Anyway.

So yeah. Pittsburgh. We’re flying out the week of the 12th for house-hunting and such, then A. will telecommute for 3 weeks while we get stuff packed up, and then he starts work proper on May 10th. Going to be a crazy month or so. Obviously new art and other content here will be on the, um, sporadic side.

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